More than 230 years ago, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay published a series of essays—now known as The Federalist Papers—promoting the ratification of the United States Constitution. The Federalist Papers were published at a crucial time in the history of the United States—when states were locked in debate over the roles of and distribution of power between a centralized government and individual states. Out of this debate came the ratification of the U.S. Constitution as the nation’s fundamental law and the codification of the core values of the United States.
Over time, the meaning of the words of the Constitution has been the subject of debates and decisions, with the federal courts as the ultimate arbiters of the intent of the drafters of the Constitution. The overriding principles embodied in the Constitution, so vital to the life of this nation, are inviolate. Among these principles is the rule of law.
The rule of law does not mean rule by law; or military law; or strongarm law. The rule of law means, in its most basic terms, equal justice for all persons; that all persons, institutions, and entities are accountable to reasonable laws that are publicly promulgated and that respect human rights. Laws are equally enforced and impartially enforced. And no one is above the law. When the rule of law prevails, our nation operates at its best and highest.
Without a shared respect for the truth, there can be no effective nation of laws. Those who deny the truth and convince others that truth is fiction, especially when they occupy the highest offices and positions of trust, are the greatest enemies of our still young national experiment.
On January 6, 2021, we witnessed at our nation’s Capitol an assault not just on a building which stands as a symbol of democracy around the world, but an assault on the rule of law itself. Many brave people continued to carry out their duties under the Constitution to ensure that the rule of law would prevail against chaos and anarchy. We owe them our sincere gratitude.
As lawyers, we believe we owe a heightened duty to promote and uphold the rule of law and to speak out in condemnation against all attempts to disrupt the rule of law and the peaceful carrying out of constitutional procedures. The laws of our great country provide a framework for debate, discussion and respectful disagreement. Violence and anarchy have no part in our political processes.
Over the days, weeks, and months ahead, we hope that all Americans will take a deep and thoughtful look at the recent events in our nation and the paths that led to the horrors we witnessed at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021; that we will condemn violence, and will seek out ways to understand and promote the rule of law. And that we will hold our leaders and ourselves accountable—for no one is above the law.